By Peter Stevenson
MEDICAL tourism could contribute towards extending the tourist season in Cyprus, bringing in money and providing jobs during these financially trying times for the island, officials heard yesterday.
The Cyprus Medical Association (CMA) has recruited the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO), and bodies from the medical and tourism sectors in an effort to help promote it.
The other contributing parties are the Pancyprian Association of Private Clinics, the Pancyprian Dental Association, the Cyprus Hotels Association (PASYXE), the Association of Tourist Businesses Enterprises (STEK), the Association of Cyprus Travel Agents (ACTA) and the healthcare promotion agency.
The associations have helped form the Cyprus Health Services Promotion Board which hopes to take advantage of the EU 2014-2020 funding programme for tourism.
Interest in medical tourism is growing and can play an important role in making Cyprus a more attractive destination according CTO’s Annita Demetriadou.
“Cyprus can easily combine excellent healthcare with holidays, and recuperation with enjoyment,” she said.
Demetriadou believes that medical tourism could help extend the tourist season on the island which will in turn give people jobs and bring in money.
“We need to support private healthcare which is going through serious financial problems due to the crisis and simultaneously improve the services that are on offer,” she added.
Tourism is one of the biggest industries in the world with around one billion tourists around the globe at any one time. This could rise to 1.5 billion by 2020 according to head of CMA, Andreas Demetriou.
“Over the last 50 years the tourism industry has played an important role in the European economy and in the Cyprus economy,” he said.
Figures show that in 1950 around 25.3 million tourists flocked to Europe from around the globe and that number rose to 414 million ten years ago.
“According to recent research, 29 per cent require some form of health care during their holidays while 10 per cent of patients in EU member countries seek some form of healthcare beyond the borders of their country,” Demetriou added.
He said he believes that number would increase once EU citizens will be able to receive free public healthcare from any EU member states, a plan which the EU hopes to implement this year.
“One of Cyprus’ greatest assets, of which it can justifiably proud, is that most of the island’s physicians have trained at world recognised medical schools,” he said.
Demetriou noted that it provides doctors on the island with a valuable range of knowledge, experience and innovation, as well as an outstanding reputation for their professionalism and dedication to the medical work they perform.
He added that the island’s hospitals and clinics can accommodate advanced medical facilities which feature the latest high-tech equipment and the required staff to operate them with many even having specific programmes carefully designed to appeal to healthcare tourism patients.
Another advantage that Cyprus has is that English is widely spoken throughout the island with many of its medical professionals having been trained in the UK and the US. A large number of physicians also speak Russian, Arabic, German and French.
“Post treatment recuperation is one of the great advantages for all patients being treated in Cyprus as the combination of leisure and treatment makes travelling for medical purposes more attractive,” Demetriou said.
He went on to say that he believes Cyprus offers value for money as price is an important factor when considering healthcare treatment abroad.
Asked what the board plans to do with the funds if it receives any, Demetriou said medical centres will be upgraded, packages for medical tourism will be created to provide good offers and all of the relevant bodies will be given incentives to cooperate with each other.